Occult

Occult

Overview
The word occult comes from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word occultus (clandestine, hidden, secret), referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g. an "occult bleed" may be one detected indirectly by the presence of otherwise unexplained anemia
Anemia
Anemia is a decrease in number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. However, it can include decreased oxygen-binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule due to deformity or lack in numerical development as in some other types of hemoglobin...

.

The word has many uses in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, popularly meaning "knowledge of the paranormal
Paranormal
Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure...

", as opposed to "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

.
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Encyclopedia
The word occult comes from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word occultus (clandestine, hidden, secret), referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g. an "occult bleed" may be one detected indirectly by the presence of otherwise unexplained anemia
Anemia
Anemia is a decrease in number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. However, it can include decreased oxygen-binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule due to deformity or lack in numerical development as in some other types of hemoglobin...

.

The word has many uses in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, popularly meaning "knowledge of the paranormal
Paranormal
Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure...

", as opposed to "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

. The term is sometimes popularly taken to mean "knowledge meant only for certain people" or "knowledge that must be kept hidden", but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends beyond pure reason and the physical sciences. The terms esoteric
Esotericism
Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...

and arcane can have a very similar meaning, and the three terms are often interchangeable.

The term occult is also used as a label given to a number of magical organization
Magical organization
A magical organization is an organization created for the practice of magic or to further the knowledge of magic among its members. "Magic" in this case refers to occult, metaphysical and paranormal activities, not to the performance of stage magic...

s or orders, the teachings and practices taught by them, and to a large body of current and historical literature and spiritual philosophy related to this subject.

Occultism


Occultism is the term used to describe the study of occult practices including (but not limited to) magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

, alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

, extra-sensory perception
Extra-sensory perception
Extrasensory perception involves reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind. The term was coined by Frederic Myers, and adopted by Duke University psychologist J. B. Rhine to denote psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairaudience, and...

, astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

, and divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

. Intepretation of occultism and its concepts can be found in the belief structures of religions such as Gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

, Hermeticism
Hermeticism
Hermeticism or the Western Hermetic Tradition is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus...

, Wicca
Wicca
Wicca , is a modern Pagan religious movement. Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the "witch cult" and "witchcraft," and its adherents "the Wica."...

, Satanism
Satanism
Satanism is a group of religions that is composed of a diverse number of ideological and philosophical beliefs and social phenomena. Their shared feature include symbolic association with, admiration for the character of, and even veneration of Satan or similar rebellious, promethean, and...

, Thelema
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

, and Neopaganism
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

. A broad definition is offered by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke B.A. , D.Phil. is a professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter and author of several books on esoteric traditions....

:
From the 15th to 17th century, these ideas that are alternatively described as Western esotericism, which had a revival from about 1770 onwards, due to a renewed desire for mystery, an interest in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and a romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 "reaction to the rationalist Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

.". Alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 was common among highly important seventeenth-century scientists, such as Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, and Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

. Newton was even accused of introducing occult agencies into natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 when he postulated gravity as a force capable of acting over vast distances
Action at a distance (physics)
In physics, action at a distance is the interaction of two objects which are separated in space with no known mediator of the interaction. This term was used most often in the context of early theories of gravity and electromagnetism to describe how an object responds to the influence of distant...

. "By the eighteenth century these unorthodox religious and philosophical concerns were well defined as 'occult', inasmuch as they lay on the outermost fringe of accepted forms of knowledge and discourse," They were, however, preserved by antiquarians and mystics.

Based on his research into the modern German occult revival
Esotericism in Germany and Austria
This article gives an overview of esoteric movements in Germany and Austria between 1880 and 1945, presenting Theosophy, Anthroposophy and Ariosophy, among others, against the influences of earlier European esotericism.-Knights Templar and occultism:...

 (1890–1910), Goodrick-Clarke puts forward a thesis on the driving force behind occultism. Behind its many varied forms apparently lies a uniform function, "a strong desire to reconcile the findings of modern natural science with a religious view that could restore man to a position of centrality and dignity in the universe. Since that time many authors have emphasized a syncretic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 approach by drawing parallels between different disciplines.

Direct insight into our perception of the occult does not usually consist of access to physically measurable facts, but is arrived at through the mind or the spirit. The term can refer to mental
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

, psychological
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 or spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 training. Many occultists have studied science (perceiving science as an adjunct to alchemy) to add validity to occult knowledge in a day and age where the mystical can easily be undermined as flights of fancy. An oft-cited means of gaining insight into the occult is the use of a focus; a physical object, a ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

istic action (for example, meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 or chant
Chant
Chant is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, often primarily on one or two pitches called reciting tones. Chants may range from a simple melody involving a limited set of notes to highly complex musical structures Chant (from French chanter) is the rhythmic speaking or singing...

ing), or a medium in which one becomes wholly immersed. These are just a few examples of the vast and numerous avenues that can be explored.

Science and the occult


To the occultist, occultism is conceived of as the study of the inner nature of things, as opposed to the outer characteristics that are studied by science. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 designates this "inner nature" with the term Will, and suggests that science and mathematics are unable to penetrate beyond the relationship between one thing and another in order to explain the "inner nature" of the thing itself, independent of any external causal relationships with other "things". Schopenhauer also points towards this inherently relativistic nature of mathematics and conventional science in his formulation of the 'World as Will'. By defining a thing solely in terms of its external relationships or effects we only find its external, or explicit nature. Occultism, on the other hand, is concerned with the nature of the "thing-in-itself
Noumenon
The noumenon is a posited object or event that is known without the use of the senses.The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to "phenomenon", which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses...

". This is often accomplished through direct perceptual awareness, known as mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

.

From the scientific perspective, occultism is regarded as unscientific as it does not make use of the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

 (that is, observation and experimentation) to obtain facts.

Occult qualities


In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, occult qualities were physical properties that had no rational explanation. At that time magnetism
Magnetism
Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

 was sometimes called an occult quality.

Religion and the occult


Some religious denominations view the occult as being anything supernatural or paranormal which is not achieved by or through God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 (as defined by those religious denominations), and is therefore the work of an opposing and malevolent entity. The word has negative connotations for many people, and while certain practices considered by some to be "occult" are also found within mainstream religions, in this context the term "occult" is rarely used and is sometimes substituted with "esoteric".

Religious Jewish views


In Rabbinic Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud...

, an entire body of literature, collectively known as Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 has been dedicated to what some might call occult science. Major books dedicated Kabbalah include Sefer Yetzirah
Sefer Yetzirah
Sefer Yetzirah is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish esotericism, although some early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory as opposed to Kabbalah...

, The Zohar, Pardes Rimonim
Pardes Rimonim
Pardes Rimonim is a work composed in 1548 by the Jewish Mystic Moses ben Jacob Cordovero.The Pardes Rimonim is a Kabbalistic work. Cordovera was part of a group of mystics of Safed in Galilee. Cordovera indicates in his introduction that the work is based upon notes he took during his study of the...

, and Eitz Chaim. For a more exhaustive look at these subjects, see Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

.

Though there is a popular myth that one must be a 40 year old Jewish man, and learned in the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 before one is allowed to delve into Kabbalah, Chaim Vital says exactly the opposite in his introduction to Eitz Chaim. There he argues that it is incumbent on everyone to learn Kabbalah - even those who are unable to understand the Talmud. Further, the father of the Lurianic School of Kabalah, Isaac Luria (known as the Ari HaKadosh, or the Holy Lion) was not yet 40 years old when he passed away.

Christian views


Christian authorities have generally regarded occultism as heretical whenever they met this: from early Christian times, in the form of gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

, to late Renaissance times, in the form of various occult philosophies. Though there is a Christian occult tradition that goes back at least to Renaissance times, when Marsilio Ficino developed a Christian Hermeticism
Hermeticism
Hermeticism or the Western Hermetic Tradition is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus...

 and Pico della Mirandola developed a Christian form of Kabbalism, mainstream institutional Christianity has always resisted occult influences, which are:
  • monistic in contrast to Christian dualistic beliefs of a separation between body
    Body
    With regard to living things, a body is the physical body of an individual. "Body" often is used in connection with appearance, health issues and death...

     and spirit
    Spirit
    The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

    ;
  • generally not monotheistic, frequently asserting a gradation of human souls between mortals and God; and
  • sometimes not even theistic in character.

Furthermore, there are heterodox branches of Esoteric Christianity
Esoteric Christianity
Esoteric Christianity is a term which refers to an ensemble of spiritual currents which regard Christianity as a mystery religion, and profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices, hidden from the public but accessible only to a narrow circle of "enlightened",...

 that practice divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

, blessings, or appealing to angels for certain intervention, which they view as perfectly righteous, often supportable by gospel (for instance, claiming that the old commandment against divination was superseded by Christ's birth, and noting that the Magi
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 used astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 to locate Bethlehem). Rosicrucian
Rosicrucian
Rosicrucianism is a philosophical secret society, said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz. It holds a doctrine or theology "built on esoteric truths of the ancient past", which, "concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe...

ism, one of the most celebrated of Christianity's mystical offshoots, has lent aspects of its philosophy to most Christian-based occultism since the 17th century.

Hindu views


Occult concepts have existed in Hinduism from the time of vedas and it is ingrained into the Hindu thought.The Atharvana Veda contains a number occult practices. They were supposed to be used to protect oneself from evil.

Tantra
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

, originating in India, includes amongst its various branches a variety of ritualistic practices ranging from visualisation exercises and the chanting of mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s to elaborate rituals.

There a hundreds of mystic amulets or Yantra
Yantra
Yantra is the Sanskrit word for "instrument" or "machine". Much like the word "instrument" itself, it can stand for symbols, processes, automata, machinery or anything that has structure and organization, depending on context....

 in Hinduism for various deities.

See also



  • Mysticism
    Mysticism
    Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

  • Ariosophy
    Ariosophy
    Armanism and Ariosophy are the names of ideological systems of an esoteric nature, pioneered by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels respectively, in Austria between 1890 and 1930. The term 'Ariosophy', meaning wisdom concerning the Aryans, was first coined by Lanz von Liebenfels in 1915 and...

  • Esotericism
    Esotericism
    Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...

  • List of magical terms and traditions
  • Magic (paranormal)
    Magic (paranormal)
    Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

  • Nazism and occultism
  • Neotantra
    Neotantra
    Neotantra, or Tantric sex, is a term used for the modern, western variations of Tantra. The term refers to both the New Age and modern Western interpretations of traditional Indian and Buddhist tantra...

  • Occult science
    Occult science
    Occult science is the systematic research into or formulation of occult concepts in a manner that follows - in its method or presentation - the way natural science researches or describes phenomena of the physical world....

  • Paranormal
    Paranormal
    Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure...

  • Spiritualism
    Spiritualism
    Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

  • Theosophy
    Theosophy
    Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...



Further reading

  • Bardon, Franz (1971). Initiation into Hermetics. Wuppertal: Ruggeberg.
  • Fortune, Dion
    Dion Fortune
    Violet Mary Firth Evans , better known as Dion Fortune, was a British occultist and author. Her pseudonym was inspired by her family motto "Deo, non fortuna" , originally the ancient motto of the Barons & Earls Digby.-Early life:She was born in Bryn-y-Bia in Llandudno, Wales, and grew up in a...

     (2000). The Mystical Qabala. Weiser Books. ISBN 1578631505
  • Gettings, Fred, Vision of the Occult, Century Hutchinson Ltd, 1987. ISBN 0712614389
  • Martin, W., Rische, J., Rische, K., & VanGordon, K. (2008). The Kingdom of the Occult. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing.
  • Regardie, I., Cicero, C., & Cicero, S. T. (2001). The Tree of Life: An Illustrated Study in Magic. St. Paul, Minn: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Rogers, L. W. (1909). Hints to Young Students of Occultism. Albany, N.Y.: The Theosophical Book Company.
  • Shepard, Leslie (editor), Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1978
  • Spence, Lewis
    Lewis Spence
    James Lewis Thomas Chalmbers Spence was a Scottish journalist, whose efforts as a compiler of Scottish folklore have proved more durable than his efforts as a poet and occult scholar....

    , Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 1920.
  • Davis, R., True to His Ways: Purity & Safety in Christian Spiritual Practice (ACW Press, Ozark AL, 2006), ISBN 1932124616.

External links